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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Exercise, Vitamin D Can Lower Fall Risk in Elderly

Task Force Reviewed More Than 50 Studies
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 29, 2012 -- Older people can reduce their risk for serious falls by exercising regularly and taking vitamin D supplements, an expert panel now says.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force panel found "convincing evidence" that exercise or physical therapy and vitamin D supplementation can help reduce the risk of falls in people aged 65 and older.

Researchers reviewed more than 50 clinical trials to assess the benefits and harms of different strategies for preventing falls in older adults living in the community outside of nursing homes and other assisted-living centers.

Falls in the Elderly Underreported

Falls are a leading cause of serious injury and the leading cause of nursing home entry among the elderly.

Risks for falls include older age, a history of falls, and difficulty getting around.

As many as 40% of people aged 65 and older living outside of nursing homes fall at least once a year, and up to 10% of those who fall will suffer fractures, lacerations, or head injuries.

Falls are also widely underreported, geriatric physician Gisele Wolf-Klein, MD, tells WebMD.

Wolf-Klein is director of geriatric education at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

"Elderly people who fall often don't tell their doctor or their children or even their spouse," she says. "They are often ashamed or fearful that they will be perceived as frail and dependent."

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